City Spotlights 2017 Bootcamp

Posted 7 July 2017 12:00 AM by Sarah Zimmer

Music underscored the day. From numerous teens gathering to belt out Adele’s “Someone Like You” during lunch, to walking into the Wang Theatre’s Rehearsal Room where upbeat music moved the improvising dancers, to Chance the Rapper’s “Summer Friends” playing as an example of how a popular artist used his music for advocacy.

The 2017 City Spotlights Summer Leadership Program highlights the intersection of arts and advocacy. As a new employee, I was anxious for the first day. Upon meeting the teens, the feeling shifted from anxiety to excitement. The energy was infectious. There was an immediate closeness between the teens and a passionate desire to be there to learn and make change with their art.

The day consisted of community building activities, an introduction to the intersection of art and social justice, small group discussions, and a break-out into the specialities of dance, acting, and music to begin the process of creating a presentation for the Massachusetts State House, a workshop tour and final performance showcase centered around a social justice issue.

My favorite activity consisted of speaking with many teens one-on-one about how we define leadership and advocacy. Many of them of created clubs or campaigns centering around topics such as racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and bullying, as high school students. These incredible teens are doing work I did not even understand until college. There is already no doubt in my mind they will go on to impact great change in their communities.

That was just Wednesday. Friday was an incredible day too. The teens learned the origins of Cabaret’s new social responsibility stemming from the unsettled political landscape of post-world-war-one Germany. History lesson in hand, the teens went on to split into groups and define terms such as “community,” “society,” “justice,” and “equality.” They answered questions such as “Does art with social commentary always have to come from a place of anger?” The discussions were thought-provoking, honest, and brave.
The highlight of the end of what we have termed “bootcamp,” or learning many of the foundational tools the teens will take onto the rest of the program, were mini performance pieces the teens created. First, they analyzed articles regarding a recent injustices within the Boston community surrounding race, lgtbq+ rights, mental health, or religious groups. Their task was, in 15 minutes, to create a performance piece about the injustice that was committed.

I have to say, if their final products were any indication about how their work throughout the program and at the final showcase will be, I am in awe. Can’t wait to kick off Monday with the teens choosing the social justice theme for their final performance and starting work on the Mass State House presentation!

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